Further thoughts …..   Leave a comment

Continuing from yesterday’s blog regarding the Las Vegas shootings, it struck me that this one is different.

Following all similar ‘incidents’, mass shootings, there is always the outcry on social media about gun control.

It opens up the debate once again about gun ownership – I often hear the argument, “if people had been armed during this incident, fewer people would have been killed.” This statement is hard to deny, and argue against. I’ll say again that I’m not against someone owning a gun, far from it, especially in today’s society, or the world we live in. It will be impossible for America to control all the guns out there, and as long as there are guns, people need to be able to defend themselves.

I think what most people argue for is simply tougher controls. The person responsible for the mass shooting this weekend had forty seven guns – take that in, forty seven guns. That is simply inexcusable. That is certainly not for self-defense unless you envisage being attacked by a foreign country.

My proposal would be that people have to pass full background checks for any new guns purchased and that there is a national registry so that if someone applies for more than three guns they have to attend a hearing and state why they need more than three guns, (some people would say two should be enough …….).

What makes this weekend’s mass shooting different is that artists were personally involved, artists with a voice to make a change. No “thoughts and prayers”, but real change. Play the NRA at its own game, lobby your senator, lobby your congressman, get them to explain how they could possibly be against slightly amending the law that would save lives in the future, possibly the life of their own child.

Don’t let the anger die over the coming days, build on it, become a force against the all powerful NRA. I’m not the biggest fan of unions and associations anyhow, I believe if you have a case or an argument, you should be able to state that on your own merit. There are attempts currently to force people to join unions and make them pay annual dues or fees – this is unbelievable and so wrong on so many levels, but I digress.

“Don’t let their death be for nothing, let it mean something,” we’ve all heard that saying, this time let’s make it happen, let this awful weekend mean a real change to the law.

Advertisements

Posted October 4, 2017 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Gun Control   Leave a comment

This past weekend gave us memories that we would prefer to forget but will remain with us forever.

As I write this the death toll in the Las Vegas massacre stands at fifty-nine, with over five hundred injured. So many families devastated, ripped apart. Ours was lucky. My daughter is a publicist for the festival and was there, watching the show, along with over twenty thousand people. The headliner, Jason Aldean, who my daughter also works with, was five songs into his set when the bullets started spraying the crowd. She managed to get out of the venue safely by climbing, crawling, running, hiding. She is home, safe, obviously traumatized but time is a healer.

The horrific murders and attack have reignited the issue of stricter gun controls in the US. Eighteen guns were apparently found in the perpetrator’s hotel room, and another sixteen or so in his house, eighty miles away.

Nevada has one of the most lax gun control policies in the country – you don’t need a permit and it is legal to buy and own assault weapons.

It is unjustifiable why anyone needs so many guns and is even more indefensible that citizens can buy military style semi-automatics.

The Second Amendment states the right to bear arms, and I don’t have a problem with that, as such, it is just the background checks that need tightening and also I do believe, with certain exceptions, that most people be restricted to owning two guns.

The premise that having all these guns is for self-defense is, with respect, laughable. You only have two hands for a start, so a handgun and a rifle would suffice.

In February, Trump changed the law and made it easier for some people with a history of mental health issues to obtain guns. One has to ask whether the thirty million dollar contribution by the National Rifle Association had anything to do with this, and further, whether their other major contributions to people in Washington is the reason for the reluctance of congress to at least seriously consider legislation for stricter control and restrictions.

I understand the argument that if, for example, some people had been armed, other atrocities would not have resulted in so many deaths, but that is certainly not the case in Vegas!

Here in Tennessee a law was passed a couple of years ago that allows guns in bars, and there are now talks for teachers in schools to be armed. It is a vicious circle, out of control. If nothing else, what does this actually say about the state of this country today and the society we live in?

I also understand the culture – in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and the rest of the south, hunting is a way of life. Only today the local paper in the small town here shows a photograph of a fifteen year old boy with the dead body of a buck that he has killed. Many people find this repugnant; I don’t actually and I’m a huge animal lover. I don’t believe in fox hunting, which is cruel and barbaric or hunting for sport at all, like trophy hunting which should be banned worldwide, but I do believe in killing for food, it is something after all that we have done as humans since time began.

How many more innocent people though have to die before common sense prevails and changes to an antiquated ‘law’ that is over two hundred years old and so out-dated are at the very least seriously explored.

Americans own the most guns per person in the world. There are more public mass shootings in America than in any other country in the world. Guns kill 1,300 children in the US each year – what if that was your child?

Here in Tennessee forty percent of people own a gun; in California it is half that, whilst actually on the east coast certain states have a percentage as low as five percent. Arizona has the highest percentage, nearly sixty percent.

As a comparison, after a couple of mass shootings there, Australia drastically changed their gun laws and there has not been one single mass incident there since.

Surely everyone would agree that something needs to be done, there is no argument that can be made against at least exploring possible changes.

“It’s the Second Amendment!” – well change that amendment, it was written in 1789, and it can be done, it was revised in 1992.

It is not healthy to have a President who is obviously a bought puppet, who has a conflict in interest, due to his accepting contributions. As recently as ten years ago Trump was for changing gun ownership laws, stricter regulation and strongly against ownership of semi-automatics; now, after that thirty million contribution, plus the endorsement of the NRA, he is a supporter of gun ownership.

It’s telling what money buys, but what price do you put on a life, be it a young child or a senior person?

Posted October 3, 2017 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Laurel Canyon   Leave a comment

We’ve probably all got a favourite time in history that we would love to have lived in, or at least fascinates us – The Egyptians, The Romans, the Wild West, London in the 1930’s. For me it is definitely Laurel Canyon in the late 60’s, early 70’s, when it was a haven for singer songwriters and musicians and actors, (it still is really).

A magical, mystical place, right in the heart of one of the busiest, largest cities in the world, this oasis of small, winding roads into the mountains, with its houses on stilts overlooking the basin of lights that is LA, remains a special place for me.

It has inspired many artists – Joni Mitchell; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; The Eagles and Jackson Brown; John Mayall; Morrison; Zappa, to name just a few. Actors like Jack Nicholson lived there, as did Marlon Brando (our house was opposite his, but he had died years before).

laurel canyon house

The Country Store on Laurel Canyon Boulevard was a focal point, halfway up the mountain. We lived at the bottom of Laurel Canyon, close to Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. Our house was one of the oldest in the canyon, originally built apparently in the early 1900’s, when LA was basically just orange groves, just before movies, and then music, helped it become the city it is today.

The new album, Laurel Canyon, tries to capture the magic, the innocence of songwriting from around the early 70’s, when The Troubadour, The Whiskey were among the places to hang, to play. It’s very acoustic based, with little overdubs.

The songs include I Can’t Remember My Name, a tip of the hat to David Crosby; House in the Hills; The Ballad of Joshua Tree (another magical place), and the title track, plus there are a number of demos on the album.

laurel new1

Current track order:

1. House in the Hills
2. I Can’t Remember My Name
3. Demo – I Saw A Cross
4. Dark Cloud
5. Averie Grace
6. Demo – Sleeping With Angels
7. Healing Waters
8. The Ballad of Joshua Tree
9. Demo – 24/7
10. If You’re Gonna Fall In Love (Fall In Love With Me)
11. Get To Know You
12. Whatever
13. If I Didn’t Know Better
14. Same Old Story
15. Out-take – Too Much To Ask
16. Take It As It Comes
17. Demo – Telegraph Road
18. Shooting Down The Harvest Moon
19. Out-take – Why Can’t You Let Me Go
20. A Safe Place To Land
21. Laurel Canyon

Today, Laurel Canyon has its own radio station, newspaper, coyotes are still heard at night, stardust remains in the air, and songwriters and artists still head for it looking for that inspiration.

Posted September 21, 2017 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Cancer   Leave a comment

An often unspoken part of life.

Sad news today about Nashville singer, Jessi Zazu, who has died of cervical cancer.

jessi

Obviously any death from cancer is awful but what makes Jessi’s case worse is that she was only 28.

Jessi was the singer of the acclaimed indie band, Those Darlins’, who released three albums. I remember hearing them a few years ago on Lightning 100 FM.

Last week we lost two country giants, Troy Gentry, and Don Williams. It’s always heartbreaking when someone passes but these two men touched so money people with their music, they will live on, on airwaves and in people’s hearts as will Jessi.

don

Cancer is a murderer, a life sentence and can affect all of us, anyone, but when it is someone so young it is all the more hurtful and devastating.

Treatment gets better with every year but too many people are still dying. I pray a cure is found soon.

Posted September 13, 2017 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Laurel Canyon   Leave a comment

It’s been a long time coming but the new album will be released early next year, and will be a double album, featuring demos, out-takes and home recordings.

laurel new1
 

Posted September 12, 2017 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

The Country Preacher   Leave a comment

I’ve been working on a treatment for a movie for a while.  Originally set in Wales, I’ve since ‘relocated’ it to Tennessee.  It’s called The Country Preacher, and is about a man who travels the countryside, visiting different small towns and their churches, preaching the Good Book.  He doesn’t, however, travel light, bringing with him all the baggage that comes with bourbon, bullets and womanizing.  Whilst his heart is in the right place, he is a bit of a scoundrel at the same time, constantly causing conflict and chaos in the towns that he visits – and yes, it is set in the present time.

countrypreacher2

In my research for this, last year I was ordained as a pastor myself.   I can legally marry people, I can open a church, my own church, and it cost me a dollar, one single dollar.  Yet, religion is a huge business here in America.  Where I live we have two gas stations that are also convenience stores and that’s it, apart from no less than at least ten churches in the small five mile radius, in the heart of Tennessee.  Indeed, there are more churches in Tennessee, per head, than any other state I believe.  There are massive churches, there are small churches, like the one nearest, a lovely church run by a a nice man, a pastor, and his wife.  They have a congregation of about thirty people.

rockychurch2

On any given Sunday morning, television here is overtaken by programmes from churches, promoting their church, usually paying to air their program; churches that encourage members of their congregation to donate a percentage of their hard earned wages to the church each week or month.  At the same time, the Pastor of some of these churches are living a life of luxury, living in mansions, with private helicopters, brand new, beautiful cars and limousines.

Many of the pastors of small churches are very sincere but the larger churches are run as a business, offering services and advice that have no place in a church – Jesus called temples ‘a den of thieves’ and this has not changed it seems.

It is common here that people in prison ‘find’ Jesus, I wrote a song about this on the album Country Tales and Hobo Trails.  It helps with their parole applications.  One very prominent local pastor of a big, very popular church, is a convicted murderer.  He killed a woman and went to prison, but was released early.  He appears as one of the least likely God worthy men I’ve ever seen, there is nothing holy about him at all.  A local paper here in Nashville has been exposing him for a long time and yet some people refuse to see the truth, that he is abusing their need and want to believe.

It’s not just in America though.  When I had the theatre in England on Sundays it had been used by a local ‘church’ for their services.  It was run by an American couple, who lived in a gorgeous, huge beach house in the area, yet the congregation were mainly very poor people.  It was known locally as the ‘Church of the Last Resort’, as most had tried other churches and had failed to find what they were looking for – perhaps they never will,

I don’t intend to open a church of course, but if I did, meetings would be in a field or a barn, and there would be no collection or ‘blessings’; of any kind, other than perhaps food and drink for the meeting.  You don’t need to attend a church to be a good Christian or a good believer in any faith, it is what is in your heart and your mind that solely matters, and how you live your life, and treat others.

You cannot sin because you think you’ll be forgiven at church next Sunday.  It doesn’t work that way.

I once worked at a Christian radio station in California, presenting a show of songs with messages, not necessarily by Christian artists, (U2 broke America through servicing Christian radio stations first, as have a number of other artists).  People at the station were very sincere in their beliefs.  I hate to see that belief being taken advantage of by anyone, and it certainly shouldn’t be in the name of Jesus.

Posted November 6, 2016 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Another year almost over – and what a year – Welshman in TN   Leave a comment

This has been a contrasting year in that at times it has seemed to have passed so quickly, and yet at other times, so slowly.

The move on to the land, setting up the home here, putting in a new drive a third of a mile long, water lines, septic tank and electric all proved very stressful, and I am not sure that if I had known then what it would entail I would have gone ahead with it.

Of course it didn’t help that we did it at the hottest time of the year, which we had said we wouldn’t do but delays took it out of our control.

Sitting here now though it all seems worthwhile. I am on our deck, the three dogs asleep by me, looking out to our fields and trees. We get deer up to the house most mornings and evenings and the birds are amazing, red cardinals, bluebirds (the state bird of Tennessee no less), vultures and so many more, plus squirrels, groundhogs, coyotes and snakes – it is a bit like living on a safari park here on Hickory Moon Farm! (A beautiful bird of prey, beige, with a huge wing span, has literally just flown by me here on the deck, into the woods).

Now it is autumn, or fall, the leaves have fallen from the trees in the woods that line our land and the trucks on the highway are now more audible as they make their way across the state line to or from Kentucky, which is about fifteen miles away from us. It conjures up for me images of bootleggers, driving down back roads with their contraband evading the sheriffs.

I have to say that everyone has been so amazingly friendly and helpful, Southern hospitality at its finest. There is an underlying current of racism in some places and with some people, stuck as they are in the past, ignorance still prevailing.

Also we are in the middle of Tennessee and hunting! Again it is not for us but respect that it is a way of life for many here. Deer are the main victims, squirrels and rabbits smaller targets. Our neighbours across the fields are avid hunters, and can and tin up deer meat that lasts them the year.

There are a number of meat processing firms in the area, and deer is one of the main meats. We will be using them for our own use though – we plan to get a cow next year and subsequently a calf. We are also getting goats, for meat and for dairy as well as chickens, ducks and possibly turkeys.

Once the holiday season is over we have a lot of work ahead of us – ploughing the fields and sowing our seeds! We intend to be as self sufficient as possible.

We plan to get a couple of donkeys, as they are apparently great protectors of stock from coyotes, of which there are a number around here.

All of this has had an impact of course on my work, my recording and writing. The studio is set up to go but I have put back the release and publication of the new CD and book until next year, when I can give them the attention needed.

Our dogs have settled in and love it here, running in the fields until they can run no more. Hope, our chocolate lab that we flew in from the UK, is like a puppy, defying her nine years. Willow, our wolf dog is now huge but loving, playful and protective, and they have now been joined by Miss Daisy Mae, a bloodhound mix puppy who has certainly made her presence known! She is also loving, very naughty, and is going to also be huge. What have we done?!? They all get on now wonderfully and as I type this Miss Daisy Mae is barking at Willow – no fear!

There is also Possum, our cat who thinks he is a dog. He comes down the field with us when we take the dogs, and sleeps right next to one of them every night. I simple do not understand cruelty to animals and would easily lock up (at least) any one found hurting an animal but it happens. We rescued Miss Daisy Mae from a shelter and Possum, and will probably rescue more.

We had tried to survive without a landline but have this week succumbed. The signal for our cell phones is appalling. We are also having to do with only 15gb a month through our satellite internet service – we were using 350gb before we moved!

One of the best things has been our deck, 360 square feet, it’s another room! Covered by old red tin roofing, (very Southern, the rain falling onto the roof, wonderful sound), the deck has a bar, table and chairs and a vintage television and video, with two further chairs, and heating is courtesy of a big chiminea. There’s also a grill, a fridge, another television at the bar, and finally, a hot tub! Sitting in this at night, with the stars above, trees blowing gently in the wind in the distance and nature all around is simply surreal – and hugely therapeutic!

Indeed the stars are amazing. There is no light pollution at all here so on clear nights we can make out constellations and planets and it has been wonderful, taking me back to my childhood interest and imagination regarding space. The meteor shower in late summer, with shooting star after shooting star, took our breaths away.

It has been hard work, and there is a lot more ahead early next year, but it is and will be so rewarding.

Well I’d better finish for now and take the short cut across the fields and walk the quarter of a mile up to our mailbox, passing our new beehives, and then back again. I’ve lost thirty pounds at least this year, without trying, (and much needed!).

There’s a storm predicted for tonight so also time to ‘batten down the hatches’.

Posted November 13, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized